Walter Benjamin Presentation

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Walter Benjamin Presentation

  1. 1. Walter Benjamin July 15th 1892 to September 27th 1940 Sarah Barnard, Sarah Blowers, Abbie Bellwood and Jo Allen
  2. 2. Biography <ul><li>Born into a wealthy Jewish family and was the eldest sibling. </li></ul><ul><li>His fragile physical physic is a strong reason why he has such close relations with his books. Especially when he was sent to boarding school in 1905. </li></ul><ul><li>Enrolled at Friedrich Wilhelm University to study philosophy and began to write essays arguing for the need of educational and general cultural change. </li></ul><ul><li>World War I started in 1914 and the following year he moved to Munich and continued his studies at Ludwig Maximilians University. It was here he met Gershom Scholem. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1917 he got married and moved to the University of Bern. The following year they had a son. </li></ul><ul><li>1919 his earened his PhD with the essay The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism. </li></ul><ul><li>Seperated from his wife and moved to the University of Heidelberg in 1921 to start an academic career. </li></ul><ul><li>Frankfurt school the insitute for social research was founded in 1923 and that’s where Walter Benjamin met Theodor Adorno. </li></ul><ul><li>The Origin of German Tragic Drama was rejected by Frankfurt University which closed the doors to an academic career. </li></ul><ul><li>The next year he began writing for the German newespapers. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1929 he met Bertold Brecht and became his assistant. </li></ul><ul><li>Moved to Nice during 1932 and plannned to commit suicide. Adolf Hitler became the Führer and his dictatorship started the persecution of the Jews . He stayed in shelter with Bertold Brecht. </li></ul><ul><li>Financial situation got worse so he collaborated with Max Horkheimer and got funds from the Institue of Social Research. Here he met other German intellectual and artist refugees. </li></ul><ul><li>He joined the College of Sociology in 1937. </li></ul><ul><li>Hitler removed the German citizenship from Jews and Benjamin was incarcerated for three months in a camp near Nevers . </li></ul><ul><li>January 1940 Benjamin returned to Paris and wrote his Theses on the Philosophy of History. </li></ul><ul><li>Just befor the Germans entered Paris he obtained aVisa to the United States. On his way a group of Jewish refugees he joined was intercepted by the Spanish Police and it was here he overdosed on morphine. </li></ul><ul><li>The details of his last days are unclear so there’s a possibility that he was murdered. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Summary of influences </li></ul><ul><li>His first influence was Gustav Wyneken when Benjamin was at boarding school in Thüringen 1905 – 07. It was here Benjamin discovered a new way of thinking. </li></ul><ul><li>The Frankfurt School is an institute of social research early members including Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse developed a form of Marxist Theory known as Critical Theory. This had a huge impact on Walter Benjamin. </li></ul><ul><li>Horkheimers essay in 1930 ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’ should perhaps be regarded as the founding document of the Frankfurt School so there for a main influence to Walter Benjamin. </li></ul><ul><li>Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht first met in Berlin 1929. Benjamin wrote a series of essays on Brecht’s plays and poetry. His writings about Brecht are some of the most important critical theory about theatre in the century; particularly Brechts influenced the essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. Moscow Diary also contains some reference to Brecht. </li></ul><ul><li>The most important philosophical influence on his thinking had been neo-Kantian ( a revived or modified type of philosophy). </li></ul><ul><li>All these influences have took Benjamin through different types of work. First starting with the philosophy of art and language, through to his cultural criticism, then to his final reflections on the concept of history </li></ul>
  4. 4. Critique of Violence <ul><li>“ All violence as a means is either law-making or law-preserving” </li></ul><ul><li>Discusses why one’s individual right to violence became the responsibility of the Law. </li></ul><ul><li>In the eyes of justice violence is a product of nature, not a problem unless misused. </li></ul><ul><li>Belief in violence encouraging the assumption of power roles and for them to evolve, which in turn causes an immediate increase in violence. </li></ul><ul><li>Justice is the creation of ends, legality is that of means. </li></ul><ul><li>Darwin’s biology regards violence as the only original means. </li></ul><ul><li>Natural law regards violence as being natural, opposed to that of positive law, which sees violence as a product of history. </li></ul><ul><li>Natural law criticizes ends. Positive law can judge evolving law by only criticizing its means. </li></ul><ul><li>Ends can be attained by justified means, justified means used for just ends. </li></ul>
  5. 5. On the Concept of History/these on the Philosophy of History <ul><li>Was to be his last piece of writing that he completed. Benjamin was in Paris, soon to be on the run from the Nazis heading for the US. </li></ul><ul><li>His thoughts on the philosophy of history came when the future looked extremely bleak as the war was starting. It echo’s many of his other writings that where influenced by the war. </li></ul><ul><li>Consists of a series of meditations in the form of 18 ‘theses’, which are in the language of Messianism and invoke specifically Jewish themes such as that of remembrance. </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns the eventual significance, if any, of human history. </li></ul><ul><li>Benjamin’s thinking of theology and historical materialism bounce off each other to create energy in the piece. </li></ul><ul><li>In every ‘theses’ Benjamin gives the impression of struggling to define the true nature of the causes of developments and changes in human societies. </li></ul><ul><li>It was in this piece that he made clear his life long commitment to a theological mode of thinking. </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Origin of German Tragic Drama <ul><li>This failed to earn Benjamin a place in the academic hierarchy, which led to his father refusing to continue offering his support. </li></ul><ul><li>However it still became his most sustained and original work, and is now one of the main sources of literary modernism in the twentieth century. </li></ul><ul><li>Benjamin thought the insights into the nature of aesthetic interpretation of theorists were essential to the true art of criticism. He talked about these in terms of the ‘digressive’ and ‘mosaic’ insights. </li></ul><ul><li>He then considers the nature of the Baroque art of the 16 th and 17 th centuries, focusing on the unusual stage-form of certain royal martyr dramas. He argues that Baroque tragedy was born from classical tragedy due to its shift away from myth into history. </li></ul><ul><li>A ‘political’ world is developed in German tragic drama, which touches on the quality of a traditional tragedy, but without the transcendent meanings that Greek drama embraced. </li></ul><ul><li>Benjamin states that emblems of Baroque metaphor point to the extinct values of a classical world, that they now cannot themselves ever achieve or repeat. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Arcades Project <ul><li>Was an encyclopaedic project on which Walter Benjamin worked on for thirteen years from 1927 until his death in 1940. </li></ul><ul><li>The Arcades Project takes its name from a nineteenth century architectural form. It also borrows its structure from that same architectural form. Arcades were passages through blocks of buildings, lined with shops and other businesses. </li></ul><ul><li>It never achieved a completed form. What remains are vast quantities of notes, images, quotes and citations; capable of being ordered and reordered in endlessly different constellations. </li></ul><ul><li>Arcades are ‘fluid’ places that he believes to resemble realities in our dreams, as their meaning is always scattered like a montage which can never be seen in full. </li></ul><ul><li>The subject of dreams are key throughout this project, as Benjamin’s dream is always just under the surface of his ideals. Dreams are a symbol of freedom; our social dreams are a direct representation of our individual utopia. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical awakening is also key to understanding and progressing in the present. He believes that to experience the world as a whole the spirit needs to develop through dreams. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical awakening appears to be the main aim of the project as a whole, even though the eclectic manner in which his thoughts have been recorded may sometimes be misleading. </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction <ul><li>Reproduced art lacks presence in time and space. Its lack of history means it lacks authenticity and is seen as a forgery. </li></ul><ul><li>However this is not the same for art that has been technically reproduced i.e photography. </li></ul><ul><li>Art has an “aura”, this is created through its place in time and space, its history. The technique of mechanical reproduction shatters this “aura” </li></ul><ul><li>The “authentic” work of art has its basis in ritual. Mechanical reproduction frees the work of art from its dependence on ritual. The idea of authenticity is not applicable to mechanically reproduced art such as photographs – when authenticity stops being applicable the function of art is reversed. </li></ul><ul><li>Instead of being based on ritual it begins to be based on politics. </li></ul><ul><li>Art is valued for different things </li></ul><ul><li>- cult value </li></ul><ul><li>exhibition value </li></ul><ul><li>The phrase “cult value” applies to ceremonial objects destined to serve in a cult, it’s the fact that they exist that is important, not their being on view. In fact cult value almost seems to demand that the work of art remain hidden. </li></ul><ul><li>The technical reproduction of art makes it easier and more accessible to exhibit. </li></ul><ul><li>In photography, exhibition value displaces and becomes superior to cult value. Photographs can be seen as evidence for historical occurrences and acquire a hidden political significance. </li></ul><ul><li>With the medium of film, it is the camera that presents the performance of the film actor to the public. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Continued… <ul><li>Through the editing and camera positioning the performance of the actor is subjected to a series of optical tests. Also the performer is unable to adjust to the audience during his performance. This allows the audience to take the position of critic. The audience’s identification with the actor is really an identification with the camera. Consequently the audience takes the position of the camera; its approach is that of testing. This is not the approach to which cult values may be exposed. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no greater contrast than that of a stage play to a work of art founded in mechanical reproduction, such as film. Experts have long recognized that in the film “the greatest effects are almost always obtained by ‘acting’ as little as possible ... ”. The stage actor identifies himself with the character of his role. The film actor very often is denied this opportunity. </li></ul><ul><li>Film enables art to be accessible to the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Anyone may now find themselves part if a work of art. Passer by becomes film extra. This is particularly relevant to Russia. In a lot of Russian films the characters are not always actors in the traditional sense, but rather ordinary people portraying themselves and primarily in their own work process. </li></ul><ul><li>The representation of reality by film is more significant than that of painting as it assembles multiple fragments of reality. </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art. </li></ul><ul><li>Behaviour items shown in a movie can be analyzed much more precisely and from more points of view than those presented on paintings or on the stage. As compared with painting, filmed behaviour lends itself more readily to analysis because of its incomparably more precise statements of the situation. In comparison with the stage scene, the filmed behavior item lends itself more readily to analysis because it can be isolated more easily. </li></ul>
  10. 10. A selected bibliography of the works about or in response to your theorist. One Way Street was Walter Benjamin's first effort to break out of the narrow confines of the academy and apply the techniques of literary studies to life as it is currently lived. For Benjamin criticism surrounds the ordinary objects of life, the texts of the time, films that are in current release, and the fleeting concerns of the public sphere. The Author as Producer represents one extreme of the spectrum of Benjamin’s positions. Benjamin attempts to use his knowledge developed in the context of historical research to entirely create a new political relationship of author – work – audience. Edward Fuchs: Collector and Historian documents Benjamin’s particular attitude towards the past. Focusing on special details for a projected future including events, products and lives that rupture the line of progress. He used this piece to advertise the principles of his project of the history of modernity. The essay clearly advocates the practice of historical materialism. The Origin of German Tragedy failed to earn Benjamin a place in the academic hierarchy. His father then refused to continue supporting him. It still became Benjamin's most sustained and original work and is one of the main sources of literary modernism in the twentieth century. Its about the theoretical nature of art in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  11. 11. Bibliography Walter Benjamin was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis. Critique of Violence 1921. Goethe's Elective Affinities 1922. Origin of German Tragic Drama [Mourning Play] 1928. One Way Street 1928. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction 1936. Berlin Childhood around 1900 / 1950. On the Concept of History / Theses on the Philosophy of History 1939. The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire 1938. Illuminations 1968 Reflections 1978 Moscow Diary 1986 The Arcades Project 1999 Edward Fuchs: Collector and historian On Hashish The Author as Producer The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1994 Understanding Brecht 1983 Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism Selected Writings, Vol. I: 1913-1926 Selected Writings, Vol. 2: 1927 – 1934 Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935-1938 Selected Writings, Volume 4: 1938-1940
  12. 12. <ul><li>Bibliography </li></ul><ul><li>Books Used: </li></ul><ul><li>The Essential Frankfurt School. Edited by Andrew Arato & Eike Gebhardt. </li></ul><ul><li>Urizen Books, New York. 1978. </li></ul><ul><li>Modernism and Marxism, An Historical Study of Lukacs, Brecht, Benjamin and Adorno. Eugene Lunn. </li></ul><ul><li>University of California Press. London. 1982. </li></ul><ul><li>The Dialectical Imagination, A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923 1950. </li></ul><ul><li>Martin Jay. Boston. 1973. </li></ul><ul><li>The Origin of Negative Dialectics, Thodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute. Susan Buck- </li></ul><ul><li>Morss. Sussex. 1977. </li></ul><ul><li>The Frankfurt School, The Critical Theories of Max Horkheimer and Thodor W. Adorno. Michael Landmann. </li></ul><ul><li>Canada. 1977. </li></ul><ul><li>The Frankfurt School. Tom Bottomore </li></ul><ul><li>Sussex. 1984. </li></ul><ul><li>Websites: </li></ul><ul><li>www.wikipedia.com </li></ul>

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